CHAMPAIGN — Illinois basketball is cooling off after losing six of its last nine games. Meanwhile, Michigan has warmed up by winning five of its last six. Here are some of the hot topics before the Illini host Michigan tonight in a Big Ten Conference game at Assembly Hall.
CHAMPAIGN — Illinois basketball is cooling off after losing six of its last nine games. Meanwhile, Michigan has warmed up by winning five of its last six.
Here are some of the hot topics before the Illini host Michigan tonight in a Big Ten Conference game at Assembly Hall.
Q: How does Illinois address its shortage of toughness?
A: Help won’t be on the way until next season, but the Illini coaching staff feels it has signed recruits who have had to fight their way up the ladder, Illinois recruiting ace Jerrance Howard said.
“You’ve got to recruit and evaluate harder,’’ Howard said. “When you say toughness, you don’t have to be a bully and pick fights. You have to be mentally tough.
“All those kids come from nothing. They haven’t been spoon-fed. Not taking shots at any of our (players), we have to get kids with a different culture and background, come from nothing, appreciate the grind and are coachable. Kids who come from nothing really appreciate you helping them and coaching them, not thinking they know it all.’’
Chicago Mount Carmel High School senior guard Tracy Abrams and Chicago De La Salle senior forward Mike Shaw are two signed recruits who can make an immediate impact with toughness. Shaw would help inside, where the Illini will lose three front-line seniors.
“He’s got to find a niche and want it,’’ Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “If he comes in and uses his athletic ability from the get-go to run the court and rebound, he will help us right away. He’s already stronger than Mike (Davis). He’s got a nice future ahead of him.’’
Q: What was guard Demetri McCamey’s reaction to Weber’s comments about outside influences affecting the guard’s performance?
A: Before practice Tuesday, McCamey said: “I know I’m not talking to anybody. I’m totally committed to Illinois basketball and not worrying about my future, because if we don’t win, if we lose, there’s no future. So it’s all about Illinois basketball for me.
“I’m not talking to any agents or runners or anybody but teammates and trying to get better.’’
Q: Did Weber have a problem with forward Mike Davis complaining about some teammates’ lack of effort in the loss to Purdue?
A: Weber felt Davis’ example should motivate the Illini.
“Did we play as hard as we did against Minnesota? No,’’ Weber said. “Do we have to as a team play harder and do it more consistently? Yes. Mike has been one guy who has over the last three weeks. It’s the one thing he made a commitment to, playing hard. He’s not played perfect. He’s trying to play hard, focus on rebounds, run the court and guarding better. I think it’s helped him.
“Whether it’s Mike Tisdale or Demetri, sometimes if you forget about your woes and just focus on playing hard, busting your butt for your team, sometimes good things happen for you. That’s what happened for Mike down the stretch.’’
Davis averaged 14.1 points and 7.7 rebounds over the last seven games. Meanwhile, Tisdale scored in double figures in three of the first 12 Big Ten Conference games, and his scoring has fallen below the averages from his sophomore and junior seasons.
Said Tisdale: “I have to get in the paint and get working in there. That’s going to be my focus. The biggest thing is me playing defense and rebounding. Scoring will be there.’’
On Tuesday, Davis tried to downplay the effect of his comments Sunday.
“Everybody is fine,’’ he said. “There’s no beef. They will see tomorrow night that we still love each other.’’
Q: What’s the scouting report on Michigan?
A: Freshman guard Tim Hardaway Jr. gets plenty of publicity, and he’s started to play his way out of the shadow of his father, the former NBA veteran and Chicago prep star whose crossover had its own nickname — The UTEP Two-Step.
Hardaway scored a career-high 26 points in the 73-69 win over Indiana on Sunday and scored in double figures in seven consecutive games and 11 of the last 12.
Nevertheless, the guy who puts the Wolverines in gear is Darius Morris, the sophomore point guard from Los Angeles who is considered the league’s most improved player. He already has posted the third triple-double in school history with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists against Iowa, and Morris leads the Wolverines in scoring at 15.4 points per game.
He also leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth nationally with 6.81 assists per game after getting 4.4 points and 2.6 assists per game last season.
The Wolverines have won three straight games.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.
ILLINOIS (16-9, 6-6) ppg rpg
F Mike Davis Sr. 6-9 11.7 6.8
F Bill Cole Sr. 6-9 5.6 2.6
C Mike Tisdale Sr. 7-1 9.4 6.6
G D.J. Richardson So. 6-3 9.7 2.0
G Demetri McCamey Sr. 6-3 14.4 3.3
MICHIGAN (16-10, 6-7)
F Jordan Morgan Fr. 6-8 9.0 5.4
F Zack Novak Jr. 6-4 9.3 6.0
G Darius Morris So. 6-4 15.4 3.9
G Stu Douglass Jr. 6-3 7.8 3.0
G Tim Hardaway Jr. Fr. 6-5 12.7 4.0
NOTEWORTHY: Illinois leads the series 84-71 after winning 12 consecutive games against the Wolverines at Assembly Hall, the longest active home-court winning streak against a Big Ten team. Overall, the Illini have won the last three meetings between the schools. . . Davis ranks fourth in school history with 836 rebounds. He needs 10 to move into third place and 17 to reach second. . . Davis and reserve guard Brandon Paul have combined to lead Illinois in scoring in the last five games.
KEY FOR ILLINI: Make the most of the size advantage over the Wolverines.
KEY FOR WOLVERINES: Shoot well, spread the floor and put the Illini defense in a bind.
KEY QUOTE: “This is a must-win game for us if you want to do anything with the rest of the season.’’ — Illinois center Mike Tisdale.
THE LINE: Illinois is a 9½-point favorite.
PREDICTION: Illinois 66, Michigan 62